So the other week, I was starting to work on a site, and I installed a tool to backup a site so I don’t lose anything in the course of editing. That made me wonder: does everyone just naturally set up site backups? And if not, why not?

What’s a site backup?

Let’s start at the beginning. A website is a collection of files that when viewed in a browser (like Chrome) display a visual environment. That collection of files is stored on a computer (a host) and is accessed by other computers (the internet / world wide web).

Backing up a website means creating copies of a site’s files and databases and saving them in a place that’s easily accessible.

Why do I need to back up my site?

So that if something happens to your site, you’ll be able to retrieve your files and get your site back online.

What might happen that I need to access my backup files?

The reasons that come to mind include if you edit your site and save something you don’t like, or if you change your host, or your host loses power, or if you have someone working on your site and they change something before you approve it or (and this is the one I most often hear about), you update your site and a plugin doesn’t play nice with the new update.

All of these reasons, and many more, are why you should be sure to back up your site daily.

How do I back up my site?

Ok, some of you don’t need to worry, because many hosts back up sites automatically, or if you sign up for a special plan. I know my host, BlueHost,** does it for free, as does DreamHost, (and kudos to them for their helpful online directions), and you can add this to your plan in GoDaddy (I think it’s an extra fee). I imagine other hosts do this also (if yours does, please let me know!). If you’re not sure, I would seriously do some research to find out if your host does backups, do you have to sign up (and / or pay) for them, and how you can access them if the worst happens.

** BlueHost backs up sites daily, and weekly, and monthly. This is a free service that comes with your hosting package.

BUT… what if you want to store the backed up files on your own, so not involving your host?

What if I want to back up on my own?

I have a WordPress site, as many of of you do, so the following info may be specific to that builder, but it’s worth it to everyone to read on. I don’t know if this can be done on builders that do not use WordPress.

In WordPress, there are fun tools called plugins. They perform many tasks; some are fun (like helping you compress files and images) and some are serious (like helping secure your site from hackers). And there are a few that are essentials, like those that back up your site.

I use one called UpDraftPlus, and it’s amazingly easy. I simply installed the plugin and then in Settings I told it how often I want it to back up my site (three times a day; guess I’m paranoid) and where I want the files to be stored (in my DropBox account, but many options are available). The big thing is to NOT store them in the same place as your site, because if you lose access to the site, the backup is inaccessible too. I now get an email three times a day telling me that my files have been backed up.

Having stored the files, I can now go into UpDraftPlus in my WordPress dashboard and press “restore.” I then tell it where the files are located, and they retrieve them and go to work. While the saved site might not be perfect, it will be very close to what it had been before.

What happens if I don’t backup my site?

You probably see this coming: if your site goes down and your files aren’t backed up, you could lose your site and would have to recreate it. You’d need to find all the pictures, and the files, and the hex codes for the colors, and the links, and all the good stuff that made your site your site. I’m not one to worry too much when I’m prepared, but with all the wacky weather over the last few years, I wouldn’t be too surprised if someone said that a host went down because of a weather issue (uh oh).

If you’re on a host that has great customer service, they may help you get it back online. I had a recent experience with DreamHost that caused a site to come back a bit different (their fault, not mine), and the support folks were very helpful. But I did have to do some work to recreate the look and feel of the site.

If that’s not something you want to do, or something you feel that you can do, I would research now and make sure your site is backed up regularly. And if you can’t find out in a general search,I recommend calling your host and finding out. This is that important.

Bottom line

Your site should be backed up, either by your host or to your own files (or both). Not doing so could be disastrous to you and your business. Most hosts either offer free backups (like Bluehost and DreamHost) or paid programs (like GoDaddy). If you have a WordPress site, there are plugins (like UpDraftPlus) that will automatically back up your site and then help you restore your site when needed.

If  you’d like help installing a backup plugin in a WordPress site, please write me at [email protected] or call or text me at (732) 820-0103.